WA govt ignored fraud plan: opposition
The Barnett government exposed taxpayers’ health dollars to corruption by abandoning a key fraud control plan in 2009, the opposition says.
West Australian opposition leader Mark McGowan said a Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) report revealing the Health Department lacked adequate measures to prevent fraud and corruption in its procurement activities was “damning”.
In 2011/12, WA Health spent $6.4 billion, 56 per cent of its budget, on procuring goods, services and works.
Apart from the Gold Corporation, WA Health spent more than any other public authority on procurement.
“This is as bad as it gets when you have the biggest government agency at risk of major fraud and corruption and the government has done nothing about it,” Mr McGowan said.
“They’ve made it worse by abandoning policies to deal with this back in 2009 after they were elected.”
Health Minister Kim Hames said it was bad such big a department lacked the controls to properly monitor procurement and claimed the CCC did not find any evidence of widespread corruption – despite the watchdog labelling the problem a “systemic failure”.
Dr Hames said the government had taken steps to implement the recommendations since receiving the draft report at the end of 2013.
He pointed out that the particular fraud incident that sparked the CCC investigation into WA’s public health system occurred while Labor was in government.
“I’m comfortable that it hasn’t occurred on my watch but I’m concerned it may occur in the future before the procedures (the CCC) recommended are in place,” Dr Hames said.
The report tabled in parliament on Thursday found the lack of measures to prevent corruption required the immediate and urgent attention of the WA Health executive, and could not be overstated given billions of dollars a year were spent on health procurement.
The CCC review was prompted by revelations Wathumullage Wickramasinghe used his position at a public hospital to corruptly obtain more than $490,000 in benefits from projects he was managing.
His activities went undetected for six years. He was sentenced last year to four years jail.